The Petri amendment to restore Transportation Enhancements to the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act has failed by just two votes, 29-27.
Arguments that walking and cycling are legitimate modes of transportation worthy of federal support fell on deaf ears in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), noting that his amendment was supported by the National Association of Realtors and the National Heart Association, said bike and pedestrian projects “add value to our neighborhoods” and provide “a balance to our national transportation program.”
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) added that increased walking and cycling would reduce congestion on American roads.
“This is not just throwing something out for recreation. This is truly transportation,” he said. “We have to recognize that we’re never going to build enough roads to accommodate everyone. We need to encourage people to be taking other forms of transportation.“
But Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) said the cuts to bike-ped funding were “fundamental” to reforming the nation’s transportation program.
“Spending money on bike paths is nice, but it’s a community-based function,” he said. “It’s not for the federal government up here in Washington to tell states that they must spend these monies.”
Uh huh. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va), ranking Democrat on the committee, noted that the 845-page bill was introduced just a few days before markup and asked for those who had read the entire measure to raise their hands. Asked how many hands he saw, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) replied, “I can’t count that low.”
So just what is it that the federal government is supposed to do? Beyond straining at gnats and swallowing camels, that is?